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Baked Mozzarella Pesto Chicken with Cherry Tomato Quinoa + Green Beans

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
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Why we love it:

In the summer, when the basil bunches are plentiful, pesto must be made! This will make a large batch and is great kept in the fridge for a few uses. Try it tossed with pasta and a little of the cooking water, stir into ricotta, hummus, or cream cheese for an easy summer dip, whisk a teaspoon into salad dressing for an herbaceous boost on any mixed greens. It will keep in the fridge for a week or more, and though it may turn a little less vibrant as it sits, it’s still perfectly edible.


  • 114 pounds Chicken Breast (boneless skinless)
  • 6 ounces Fresh Mozzarella (most of a soft fresh ball, use a little more or less and save the rest for another dish)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 14 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 2 cups Water
  • 112 bunches Basil
  • 3 Tablespoons Pine Nuts
  • 12 cup Parmesan Cheese (grated)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 12 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 34 teaspoon Cider Vinegar
  • 1 pound Green Beans
  • 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter
  • 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes

Cooking Instructions


    Place the chicken breasts on a work surface. Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep pocket in the side of each piece. If the tender is attached, make the pocket in the side that does not have the tender on it, so the tender will flap across, helping to close the pocket. If it is not attached, it’s still preferred to make the incision on the same side, but sometimes you can’t tell which that is. Start about ½ inch away from the top of the chicken breast, where it’s thickest. Carefully, wiggle the knife in and down to the thinner edge.

    Repeat with the remaining pieces. Prop them all open a bit on a lined baking sheet or 9x13 baking dish. Wash your hands and clean the work surface.


    Slice the mozzarella into thin pieces, about ¼” thick. You’ll want about 1 slice per chicken breast. Sprinkle the chicken, inside the pocket and out, with about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

    Stuff the chicken with mozzarella, filling it evenly and generously, but when you pull the top flap back over to lay the piece flat, you don’t want anything spilling out as it will just be wasted on the pan. Also, be careful not to touch any mozzarella you might not fit in to the chicken - this would contaminate it and you’ll have to throw it out for safety.

    When stuffed, pat the pieces back into shape, sealing up the pocket. Place the pan into the oven and roast for 10 minutes while you make the quinoa and pesto.

  • 4. QUINOA

    Combine 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium pot. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. When boiling, stir and reduce to medium so the water is simmering. Cover partially, and cook for 15-16 minutes total, stirring occasionally. When it’s done, it will be fluffy and tender. Turn off the heat, stir once, cover and set aside.

  • 5. PESTO

    Remove the basil leaves and tender stems from the bunch. Run under water and shake most of the excess off. Tear or chop once or twice into smaller pieces.

    In a blender or food processor, place the pine nuts. Add ½ cup parmesan cheese, 2 garlic cloves and ½ teaspoon of salt, then pulse until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add the basil and with the motor running, add oil in a slow and steady stream until pesto is mostly smooth, with just a few flecks of green, about 1 minute.

    Taste the pesto and consider adding another pinch of salt or a ¼ teaspoon of cider vinegar. Add the vinegar if it seems flat or needs a boost.

  • 6. CHICKEN

    When pesto is done and chicken has been cooking for at least 10 minutes, slide the pan from the oven. Use a clean spoon and put about 1 Tablespoon of pesto on the top of each chicken breast (don’t touch the meat then dip the spoon back in the will contaminate the pesto!). Once each has a dollop on it, use the back of the spoon to spread it out into a nice thick coating, adding a little more with a clean utensil if desired.

    Return chicken to the oven and bake for another 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts.


    Meanwhile, trim the stem end of the green beans and place them in a steamer basket in a medium pot. Fill the pot with 1” of water and cover. Set over high heat and steam for about 5 minutes until the beans are bright green and crisp tender. Toss in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of butter and a pinch of salt, both to taste.

  • 8. QUINOA

    Toss the warm quinoa with some whole or halved cherry tomatoes. Add a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and toss to combine. Splash it with ½ teaspoon cider vinegar or a squeeze of lemon if you have a piece that needs using up.

  • 9. PLATING

    When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 2-5 minutes, this helps the mozzarella set up so it’s melty and delicious but doesn’t all run out from the center. Slice into thick pieces through the center of the breast to show off that filing. Plate with a scoop of quinoa and some green beans. Serve with extra pesto as desired.

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    stuff the chicken with a dairy-free ricotta or cashew cheese, or stuff the chicken with thin strips of squash (make ribbons with a vegetable peeler), or with chopped baby spinach. Alternatively, don’t stuff the chicken at all, just roast with the pesto on top. In the pesto, simply omit the parmesan. You could add a teaspoon of nutritional yeast or miso to boost the flavor of the pesto but it’s not necessary.
    COW DAIRY FREE - fresh chevre or a soft sheep’s feta make an excellent stuffing cheese. Use pecorino in the pesto if parmesan bothers you!
  • PALEO:
    omit cheese
    Stuffing the chicken is a nice touch but does add time and requires attention. The flavors are just as delicious if you coat any cut of chicken with the pesto and omit the cheese stuffing. You could also roast the chicken with pesto until its 90% done, then drape the top with the mozzarella and cook for the few minutes to melt
    omit the pine nuts from the pesto. If desired, add sunflower seeds, flax seeds, or pepitas to add a layer of flavor
    these are pricey and occasionally hard to find. Use walnuts or cashews for a change!
  • BASIL:
    if you have leftover herbs add them to the pesto! Parsley and oregano are both perfect, but even a little cilantro or arugula make a great partner for basil pesto
    if you have full size tomatoes on hand in need of a use, dice them and use them instead of cherry tomatoes. If your tomatoes are very ripe and delicious, roast them in the oven with a dash of olive oil for about 6 minutes until they burst and the flavor will concentrate and sweeten. Add all of the juices and roasting oil to the quinoa too
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